Reed Krakoff, center; a look from his spring 2014 collection, left and First Lady Michelle Obama wearing his cobalt blue dress on the cover of the March 2013 issue of Vogue magazine

A model, left, walks the runway at the Reed Krakoff fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014 in New York City. Reed Krakoff, center, at a luncheon in his honor. Michelle Obama wears a Reed Krakoff dress on the March 2013 cover of Vogue. (Photographs, from left, by Michael Dills / Getty Images; Associated Press; Vogue)

After 16 years at the helm of American heritage brand Coach, Reed Krakoff is charting a solo course with his own label.

In the three years since launching his namesake brand, Krakoff has dressed Lena Dunham, Julianne Moore and the First Lady Michelle Obama, who wore his cobalt blue dress on the March 2013 cover of Vogue.

He has a robust accessories business (the Boxer and Atlantique bags have been big hits), which accounts for about 70% of sales, and his ready-to-wear clothing is gaining momentum among women looking for something intellectual, modern and American.

Krakoff, a longtime art collector and photographer, recently published “Women in Art: Figures of Influence,” a collection of black-and-white portraits of female figureheads in the art world, including Christine Kim and Rita Gonzalez, associate curators of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He photographed them last year in front of a massive Toby Smith sculpture in one of the museum’s expansive halls.

Krakoff was back in L.A. last week for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund event, and I caught up with him over coffee to talk about his post-Coach career, the DNA of his brand, his photography style and his favorite L.A. spots.

Do you miss Coach at all?

I wouldn’t say I miss it. I had an amazing experience and it was a chunk of my life. But it was becoming clear that this was what I wanted to do with the next stage of my life, and the timing was right.

People who watch the markets are already predicting the decline of Coach now that you’ve left.

I really don’t know much about it. I’m just so happily focused on my business and my team and I’m lucky to have been able to start the business with the great support of Coach. They still have a stake in the company, which is great.

Intellectually, did you want to go back to the beginning?

Yes, the experience of starting and molding something, the good and the bad, is gratifying. I have been in this business for 20 years, and it’s great to do something now where I don’t have to put it through a filter. It’s personal. I photograph campaigns and work on the stores with my wife, Delphine. We have a small team and we’re all in sync. It’s very collaborative.

What niche do you think the Reed Krakoff brand can fill in the luxury market?

We’re finding we’re being accepted as a credible competitor to European luxury brands. And I believe there is space for a brand that is about a new kind of luxury that’s not a woman in a white coat with a thread and needle. It’s about creativity that’s connected to all different aspects of the world -- art, design and architecture. We see it as a more modern, design-driven take.

What do you like most about the business?

Being in a commercial company sometimes it gets obscured, but I love to make things -- sketch, drape and construct samples in the office

I know you shoot your own ad campaigns. I’m sure you are constantly taking photographs too. What is your camera of choice and do you shoot digital?

The Mamiya RZ67. There is something about the process of shooting film, you do something different. It’s like writing in pencil versus on a typewriter versus on a computer. It informs your choices a lot.  Plus, you have 10 frames in a film camera then you have to reload. But I also have about 7,000 or 8,000 pictures on my phone. I’m constantly taking pictures with it, but it’s a different exercise.

You’re lucky to be a young brand with such a robust business in accessories, when a lot of times it’s the reverse, and the clothing comes first. What are people looking to you for in RTW?

It’s not enough to have the most expensive double face cashmere. There has to be desire, quality and craftsmanship. The fundamental of our brand is bringing together the disparate ideas of sensuality and architectural design, luxury and modernity.

Let’s talk about the spring 2014 collection. What were some of the inspirations?